Magistrate's idea to heal rifts

A LISMORE magistrate floated the idea of releasing all participants in a violent brawl at Coraki last month on good behaviour bonds.

‘Thinking out loud’, Magistrate Robyn Denes raised the idea as she considered the sentence of a young man with no criminal history, who had been charged with affray for his role in the brawl, as a way of trying to heal the rifts between the Coraki and Box Ridge communities.

John Griffiths Randall, 19, of Box Ridge, was one of three people fronting Lismore Local Court yesterday charged with affray over the brawl involving more than 15 people around Martin Street, Coraki, on March 28, and was the only one yesterday to enter a guilty plea.

Police said they received 12 separate Triple-0 calls from frightened residents on the day of the brawl between members of the Coraki and Box Ridge Aboriginal communities. They say they also have video evidence of the fight and of individuals charged over it.

Lismore Local Court heard the fight began after a group of men from Box Ridge drove into Coraki looking for trouble following a fight the night before.

Randall had come down with that group to watch the anticipated fight, but was drawn into the brawl when his 14-year-old cousin was attacked. Randall neither caused nor received any serious injuries during the fight.

Ms Denes said there appeared to be a conflict between the communities and suggested an informal form of circle sentencing, outside of the existing circle sentence process, might be the best way to resolve the issue once and for all.

“Until this issue (underlying the violence) is resolved there will always be payback in some form or another,” Ms Denes told the court.

However, for that plan to have any chance of getting up, and for Ms Denes to use good behaviour bonds, all or most of the people involved in the brawl would have to plead guilty and accept responsibility for their actions.

Further complicating the issue was the seriousness of the offence.

Ms Denes said the charge of affray carried a maximum 10 years’ jail.

The prosecutor said the offence demanded a strong response.

“There has to be a deterrent factor to get across to the communities that this sort of behaviour is not tolerated,” he said.

“If a Section 10 (good behaviour) bond is given, it may not send the proper message.”

However, Ms Denes suggested heavy sentences might not be enough to stop the violence.

“There’s a bigger picture here,” she said.

“There appears to be a bigger community issue and policing issue. I have to deal with the public interest.”

However, that’s as far as the idea went.

Randall, who ended up with a nine-month good behaviour bond, was keen to get his case over with.

Another person involved in the brawl, Andrew Euston Williams, yesterday also entered a guilty plea. His case was adjourned to June 18 for sentence.

More of those charged over the incident appeared to be planning to fight their charges than to plead guilty.

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